Guns N’ Roses 8/22/16

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My first memory of Guns N’ Roses is listening to Appetite for Destruction in my 5th grade class. Our teacher used to let us kids bring in a cassette to listen to on Fridays and a kid named Ken brought it in (I think he borrowed it from his older sister). Back around the same time my parents used to take advantage of deals through companies BMG or Columbia House where they would buy 1 album and get 12 for free. They ended up ordering Appetite for Destruction and I ended up stealing it from their collection. Before Nirvana came along GNR was one of only a handful of bands I even cared about and they were pretty much at the top of that small handful.

Fast forward to my freshman year in high school right about the time the Use Your Illusion albums came out when GNR was touring with Faith No More and Metallica. I remember this being the first concert ever wanting to see but I was still too young to drive and did not really have any older friends that could drive or money for that matter. One of the hottest girls in our school was a senior when I was a freshman and I can still see her walking down the hall in the t-shirt she had gotten from wherever she saw the tour. Within a few years GNR as the world knew them broke up and long story short I never got to see GNR…until now. So after many years of feuding Axl, Slash and Duff set aside their differences to do a tour…a very lucrative tour.

So it was announced that GNR was to play Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego as the last stop of a very limited tour. Even though the show was on a Monday this was still super convenient to me since I live within walking distance of Qualcomm Stadium. So I randomly get a text from my buddy one Saturday letting me know that there is a presale for tickets but you must purchase a fan club membership for $49 to get in on that action. All telling it ended up being $250 for 2 tickets that I thought at the time were actually fairly good seats on the floor level. Once my friend Larry living abroad caught wind he shot me a message saying something along the lines of “get me a ticket or I’ll fucking kill you.” I thought worst-case scenario I could sell the other ticket if I needed to but it ended up being a nightmare. Since I thought both my tickets were spoken for I had Bob purchase 2 tickets as well. Larry ended up not coming and now we had 2 extra tickets to get rid of in a very saturated market. At the end of the day we ended up selling Bob’s 2 tickets to friends of ours for $40 each and kept mine to use as they were the better of 2 pairs…but they turned out to be Club level, not floor.

After waiting for what seemed like forever Bob and I walked out of the nearby Liquor Store with a sandwich in hand and headed over to the parking lot to tailgate. There were a handful of people we were supposed to meet up with but I had went swimming with my non-waterproof phone the weekend before so…we just finished our beer and sandwiches and went in to see openers The Cult. We sat down and after a minute I realized that we had accidentally gotten into the Plaza level seating. About this time we saw several people walking over a gate to get onto the field level so we figured why not? Now we only had one security guard to get through to get onto the floor. Easier said than done. Even if we could figure out a way down to the floor everyone down there was wearing a bright yellow plastic wristband. Right about this time a guy just went right over the port-o-potty roof and onto the floor. We thought this was going to be our only way down but all the lights were still bright so we decided to wait until GNR actually started playing. We did not need to wait long. About 3 songs in the security guard at the end of our row abandoned post and we booked it. We tried to just blend in at the back of everyone standing on the floor and apparently were successful because we never got kicked out. Some of my favorites were “It’s So Easy,” “Double Talkin’ Jive,” “Civil War,” “Coma,” and “November Rain.” Al’s near constant wardrobe changes were comical but GNR was firing on all cylinders and clocked in at just under 3 hours which officially makes this the longest performance I have ever seen. Badass.

Marilyn Manson/Slipknot 8/17/16

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This show was originally supposed to be on June 15th but it was rescheduled to August 17th due to Corey Taylor recovering from surgery on his broken neck. Due to the rescheduling I went from going with potentially 4 or 5 other people to going by myself. Not the first time I’ve went to a concert by myself and I’m sure it will not be the last. Sure it is way cooler to go with people that you know and share an awesome moment together but when the band hits the stage I’m on another planet regardless of who if anyone is around me. Of Mice & Men opened the show but I was really going to see Marilyn Manson and Slipknot, even though I had just seen the 2 bands on the same bill at Aftershock back in October. I ended up arriving about 10 minutes prior to Marilyn Manson going on.

Due to multiple reasons I had not only a rare solo concert outing but also a rare sober concert outing. No beer, no green stuff. It was fitting that the moon was full on this particular night. The lawn was sparsely populated and the entire 3rd Level Seating Section just below was virtually empty. Even so, because the show was not general admission no specific seat ticket = no seat.

Marilyn Manson came out with a furious version of “Angel With The Scabbed Wings.” I love that song. Marilyn Manson’s stage was relatively stripped down with essentially just a fixed backdrop and a lit up stained glass window sort of thing on both sides of the stage. This was the first time I have ever seen Marilyn Manson with 2 guitarists. It sounded great but still not as great as when John5 was guitarist (I am still bummed he left the band but am happy that I still get to watch him when I see Rob Zombie live). This set had its moments but it was not one of those fierce sets that I have been lucky enough to witness a few times. There was a comical moment where some of the ladies in the crowd threw bras on the stage to Twiggy, which he proudly hung from his mic stand.

About halfway through their set I did notice something that would change the course of my evening. There is a wide walkway that separates the lawn and the 300 section. To enter the 300 section you must present your ticket stub to the security guard manning the stairway. What I witnessed was a drunk guy going halfway between the nearest 2 guards and jumping over the rail to get into the section. He got away with it and I thought it was genius so after thinking it over for a minute and rationalizing it by telling myself the worst that could happen is getting kicked out and robbed of seeing a few bands I have seen many times before I stole his move. The upside outweighed the downside. So right after the band started playing “Sweet Dreams” I made my way down to the walkway and after a quick look around to make sure no security was near (you can see them coming a mile away in their bright red t-shirts) I was up and over in a flash and went down to the front of the section and grabbed a seat. It probably helped that I was wearing a black t-shirt and jeans (a trick I learned from unsuccessfully trying to sneak into Soma wearing a bright white t-shirt). “Hey a guy just jumped over! He has brown hair and was wearing a black shirt and jeans.” Gee thanks guy you just described nearly everyone here…I digress. Marilyn Manson is always awesome but it was a little weird seeing them open for someone. I’ve seen them on festivals where they were not the headliner but this was different. Different but still awesome. Marilyn did his stilt-walking during “Sweet Dreams,” they played “Coma White” which I have only seen them play one other time and they played a ferocious version of “Antichrist Superstar.”

When Slipknot came out they quickly made me realize why Marilyn Manson was the opener. Slipknot is so goddamn loud and full of frenetic energy that you cannot help but go as nuts as the NINE dudes on stage. After “Be Prepared for Hell” played through the speakers the band hit the stage for an absolutely intense version of “The Negative One.” Hell of an entrance and they never let up the relentlessness of their attack the entire time. Corey Taylor is a great salesman. He is always telling the crowd how much they are appreciated. You cannot help but like a guy that keeps telling you how much he likes you. “Eyeless” was fantastic, “Killpop” lost some of its mysterious power and “Psychosocial” was played way faster than on the album. “Left Behind” was also another personal favorite. This band has come back in a HUGE way with the newest album and like they used to say in McDonald’s commercials “I’m lovin’ it.”

MARILYN MANSON SETLIST: “Angel With The Scabbed Wings,” “Disposable Teens,” “No Reflection,” “mOBSCENE,” “ Cupid Carries A Gun,” “Irresponsible Hate Anthem,” “The Dope Show,” “Sweet Dreams,” Antichrist Superstar,” “Coma White,” “The Beautiful People”

SLIPKNOT SETLIST: “The Negative One,” “ Disasterpiece,” “ Eyeless,” “Skeptic,” “Before I Forget,” “Killpop,” “Dead Memories,” “The Heretic Anthem,” “Psychosocial,” “Pulse of the Maggots,” “Left Behind,” “The Devil In I,” “Wait and Bleed,” “(sic),” “Surfacing,” “Duality,” “Spit It Out”

P.S…As evidenced by the video I saw, apparently  after he performed Marilyn Manson found a karaoke bar in downtown San Diego and sang “I’m 18” by Alice Cooper and “Holy Grail” by Jay Z. Lucky bastards in that bar. Watch Here

 

HELLYEAH 6/4/16

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I went to see Hellyeah 2 nights in a row? Not so fast. Remember how Bob had to end up bailing on Local H due to a family vacation? Well this concert was also affected and he was the only one slated to go with me. He wanted to see Hellyeah so bad that he bought us tickets and accommodations for the Riverside show since he was scheduled to get back Saturday afternoon. I tried selling the San Diego tickets for basement pricing but got no bites. I felt guilty for letting the tickets go to waste but I had nobody to go with me and am not that huge of a Hellyeah fan.

I had seen Hellyeah on the second stage of the Uproar Festival back in 2010 mostly because I love Pantera and Mudvayne so I had to see what Vinnie Paul and Chad Gray were up to. This was my first concert in Riverside and the venue itself was pretty cool. There were 3 opening bands but me and Bob decided to drink ourselves into oblivion instead. After a 6 pack each of some potent IPA we headed off into what seemed like the downtown area. It was a good turnout, especially after the experience I had earlier in the week. Hellyeah was touring for the new album Unden!able that ironically was released on June 3rd (day of the San Diego show). All I can really say is Hellyeah was much improved over the last time I had seen them. They were tight as a band and seemed to be firing on all cylinders. There were only a handful of songs I recognized as a casual fan but as a fan of heavy metal in general I appreciated their performance.

 

Local H 6/1/16

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This was the fourth time I have had the pleasure of seeing Local H. Their live show is always fantastic and very lively and thus worthy of going out on a weeknight, especially since this tour had them celebrating the 20 year anniversary of the As Good As Dead album (which I love) by playing it in its entirety. Bob originally bought me a ticket as a birthday present and was set to go with me until he figured out that he booked a week long family vacation during the same week. Whoops! I recruited Calvin to go with me which worked out nicely since he does not live too far away from the venue. I picked Calvin up and he immediately pulled out a fat pre-rolled. A couple miles and puffs later we were walking into the Belly Up to Local H who had just started. I could not believe how few people were there. I would estimate the place was about half-full. What a crime.

This show was unlike any of the previous times I had seen them. There was a drum kit set up on the left and right hand side of the stage with plenty of room in the middle for Scott Lucas to play. Instead of just playing the entire As Good As Dead album they opened with a full hour set of songs from their latest album Hey, Killer and crowd favorites like “Hands on the Bible” and “California Songs.” The “new” drummer Ryan Harding was the drummer for this set. Let me just say this guy is a machine. He was the drummer the last 2 times I saw Local H but this time he was especially awesome and crushed the drums non-stop. Scott was going off as well. They were feeling it. This is the first time I have seen Local H that Scott seemed happy. He was not scowling at the audience like he had the previous times I had seen them and was cracking jokes. After a brief intermission Scott came back with Joe Daniels, the original drummer on As Good As Dead and thanked the opening band Local H. “Those guys are pretty good.” I had only seen Joe in the liner notes of the album and he looked like a skinny black dude with dreads. Now he is ripped sans dreads. They started off with “Manifest Destiny Pt. 1” but then went right into “Bound For The Floor,” saving “High-Fiving MF” for later in the set. Some of my favorite moments were “I Saw What You Did And I Know Who You Are,” “Nothing Special,” “Back In The Day,” “Fritz’s Corner” and when Scott did his best Jimmy Page imitation by tacking the solo from “Heartbreaker” onto the end of one of the songs. Up to this point Scott had switched between a custom Strat and Tele but for the last 2 songs he played a Gibson ES 335. This is the first time I have seen him play a guitar without the bass pickups. He was able to do so because Ryan came back out to play bass for the last 2 songs. Pretty cool.

Joe was a good drummer but not as hard hitting as Ryan so it was interesting to see both in one night. The first time I saw Local H was before second drummer Brian St. Clair departed and after seeing Local H with all drummers it seems like Scott keeps finding drummers who hit harder than the last, which is fine by me. Go see this band if you have a chance!

Filter/Orgy 5/19/16

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So this show had been on my radar largely because Orgy was opening up for Filter. I had only seen Orgy once (see Big Stink 4 8/8/99) and just missed them play a headlining show at the end of January. I was on the fence for this show since it was on a “school night” but decided against going once I learned that the only original member of Orgy was the singer Jay Gordon. I guess if you’re going to have only one original member the singer is the best person to have because the voice/emotion is not as easy to replicate as guitar tones. Ultimately I was just scared of tarnishing the memory of the first time I saw Orgy since it was so great. That is until I won 4 tickets on a lark from entering a contest from a Facebook ad. I never win anything so that was pretty cool. I got Tom and Bob on board but Tom flaked out at the last minute. I ended up selling one of the tickets for $10 to a guy that met us at the venue. There were 2 other bands (Death Valley High and Vampires Everywhere) but Orgy was already playing when we walked in. We got to see them play “Octagon,” “Fiction (Dreams in Digital),” “Suckerface,” “Stitches,” “Blue Monday” and a few new songs that did not sound bad. It was fantastic. Not as good as the first time I saw them but still fantastic (though apparently they could not afford to buy their own backdrop (see picture). For “Blue Monday” Jay walked around the floor and was going up to people having them sing verses of the song.

Filter headlined the show and were touring for their new album Crazy Eyes. I love Filter and saw them about 5 times prior to this but I have just not been able to get into any of the albums after The Amalgamat. Lucky for me roughly half the songs they played were from the first 3 albums including “(Can’t You) Trip Like I Do,” “You Walk Away,” “Jurassitol,” “Take A Picture,” “Welcome to the Fold,” “American Cliche’,” “The Best Things,” and “Hey Man Nice Shot.” Richard Patrick had an entirely new touring band that seemed to click a little better than the last time I saw Filter open up for Chevelle and Bush. Rich bore a slight resemblance to Hitler partially because of the lighting, partially because of my beer consumption and mostly because of his haircut. If he decided to grow that stupid little mustache he could get cast for the role of Hitler no problem. My faith has been restored in seeing Filter live. Now I just need to get into albums 4-7…

I would be remiss if I did not share the story about the Uber we caught after the show. Guy picks us up I say how’s it going? He says alright but my transmission is shitty. I say “you know what’s good for a shitty transmission? Pantera.” He says I don’t have that but fuck yeah! Then he puts on Metallica’s And Justice for All album (my favorite Metallica album) at full volume and we proceed to rock the fuck out the entire drive home but halfway through the ride he reaches for his glovebox and says “You guys wanna smoke some weed?” Best. Uber. Ever.

Billy Joel 5/14/16

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Billy Joel? The Piano Man? Yep. I am a super casual Billy Joel fan and did not plan on going but got married 3 weeks ago and received tickets as a wedding gift from my wife’s aunt. We made the ill decision of taking the trolley into downtown which in and of itself is fine, but we always forget that it takes almost an hour because of all the stops in between. We got into downtown and had a little time to grab a drink so we went into the Old Spaghetti Factory thinking that the bar area would be relatively empty compared to a traditional bar. Wrong. That place was popping but we managed to get a large beer in us before heading over to Petco Park, which is surprisingly a pretty cool place to see a concert with the beautiful skyline as a backdrop. I had previously seen DeadMau5 and Paul McCartney there. Our seats were nearly as far away as they could possibly be but we did not care. Just being there was cool. Billy Joel came out and started about 8:30. He said he had not been in San Diego “since I was here with that other guy about 15 years ago.” Then he started singing “I don’t have much money” referencing Elton John’s “Your Song” and said “you have plenty of money motherfucker.” He seemed to be genuinely enjoying himself. I can always respect that out of a performer that has had to play the same songs literally thousands of times. The first hour of the show started out a little slow and as a casual fan the only song I really knew in that first hour was “The Longest Time.”Then he kicked it into high gear and killed it for the final hour starting with my personal favorite “Movin’ Out.” Then he played “She’s Always a Woman” and “My Life” before doing an electrifying cover of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” with one of his roadies singing. Billy Joel doing a cover of AC/DC??? Awesome. Then he played “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” “The River of Dreams,” and a cover of the Eagles’ “Take it Easy” before playing the crowd favorite “Piano Man.” The place just erupted with everyone going nuts. He finished up with “Uptown Girl,” “Still Rock And Roll To Me,” Big Shot,” “You May Be Right” with a little Led Zeppelin tacked on to the end and closed with “Only the Good Die Young.” So happy I got to see this guy!

Muse 1/7/16

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In the spirit of trying to save money for the upcoming wedding, me and Ingrid decided that for Christmas gifts we would get each other tickets to go see Muse instead of paying too much for crap we did not need. Muse was on tour for the excellent album Drones that came out in June. I’m not really sure how this band stayed off my radar for so long but I don’t think I really heard them until the song Madness. I am also not sure why the show was postponed from December 16th to January 7th but this delay changed our entire experience because now our friends Larry and Christina were in town from Europe and could go with us. They had tickets in a separate section but we were able to meet up beforehand and have a few drinks. It was raining pretty heavily so we decided to pay the $20 to park in the lot but traffic at the main gate was being diverted to behind the Sports Arena where traffic was horrendous. We had skipped the opening band Phantogram and it was now getting uncomfortably close to showtime. Rather than wait for the traffic we decided to try to find street parking nearby. The closest spot was a pretty far walk so we ended up catching the shortest Uber ride in history to avoid the rain. Once we got close to the venue we realized that Muse was already playing the song Dead Inside which ended up being their second song. Shit. Not only was this one of Ingrid’s favorite songs but she also had to use the ladies room immediately after we were inside. I used this opportunity to relieve myself as well but as I stood in the bathroom they had begun to play one of my favorite songs – Hysteria. Double shit. After a fiasco trying to find our seats and then kicking people out of our seats we could finally behold the greatness of Muse.

I have never seen such a fantastic stage setup and I have seen a LOT of concerts. They used the stadium in such a way that there was literally not a bad seat in the house. Their massive stage sprawled out lengthwise on the floor instead of the traditional stage setup at one end of the arena that renders all seats directly to the side and in back of the stage useless. The best way to describe it is a circle in the center that turned 360 degrees with a catwalk on the north and south ends. The light show and retractable see-through projection screens was nothing less than incredible. Oh and the music? Flawless and phenomenal without any of the usual fluff and banter with the crowd. They played for 2 solid hours and had many visual tricks up their sleeve to enhance the experience including giant dark balloons that shot out into the crowd, pianos that came out from under the stage, giant lit up balls that hovered above the crowd and a giant rocket/drone that circled the stadium. Instant top 5 concert I have ever been to.

SETLIST: Psycho, Dead Inside, Hysteria, Plug In Baby, The 2nd Law: Isolated System, The Handler, Resistance, Supermassive Black Hole, Prelude, Starlight, Apocalypse Please, Munich Jam, Madness, Undisclosed Desires, [JFK], Reapers, Time Is Running Out, Uprising, The Globalist, Drones, Mercy, Knights of Cydonia